The Period Between the Old and New Testaments

Most of this information is drawn from Michael O. Wise book, The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior before Jesus,

I would assume that most Christians think, as I did, that the Jews had been occupied and oppressed continuously for hundreds of years before Jesus, and longed for a Messiah all during that period.

But this was not the case.

During the Maccabean Period (around 150 BC) the Jews achieved complete independence and had essentially restored the entire region that had made up King David's Kingdom.

Starting at 94 BC

For six years there was a civil war between the Sadducees' Party and that of the Pharisees.

The Sadducees were made up of Jerusalem Temple priests and their families.

The Pharisees were a lay movement popular with the masses and centered on strict interpretation of the scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament).

The quarrel was over how water was to be poured during a particular ritual in the Temple.

The King, Alexander Jannaeus (103 - 76 BC), was away on a failed war against the Arab Nabateans and as he returned to Jerusalem the Pharisees rose up.

The Pharisees had received help from the Greek Syrian Demetrius III and at first Alexander fled.

Shortly, Demetrius returned to Syria and additional support went to Alexander.

He lay siege to the Pharisees and captured and killed 800 of them.

The Pharisees were suppressed, but grew in popularity with the people.

The Power Shifts

With the death of Alexander Janaeus in 76 BC, his wife, Queen Alexandra took over. She embraced the Pharisees and appointed her son John Hyrcanus II to be the Jerusalem Temple High Priest.

The Pharisees used their new power get revenge on the Sadducees.

The Messiah Before Jesus

According to Michael O. Wise, it is at this time that an elderly priest breaks off and starts his own sect. This sect eventually becomes the Dead Sea Scroll sect and he is the "Teacher of Righteousness" referred to in their writings.

Wise refers to him as "Judah" although he admits this name is speculative.

At first Judah is tried and exiled, and leads a small group into the region outside of Damascus where they live as bandits.

Judah began teaching that he was the political messiah described in Isaiah and that he would return to Jerusalem eventually and liberate it.

His group was attacked and slaughtered on the Day of Atonement 74 or 73 BC. The Pharisees used a different calendar and knew Judah's group would not fight on their version of that holiday.

Judah escaped with a very small group and began to reinterpret the scriptures to explain why these terrible things were happening to them.

He predicted that Satan would rule for 40 years and then the two Messiahs of Aaron and Israel would appear and take over.

Judah began using much of the terminology that Jesus would later. He was the shepherd, the suffering servant, the shoot of Jesse.

The Death of the Messiah

His sect calculated, using Daniel 9:24-27, that the end times would come some time between 73 and 65 BC.

Gog of Magog was the King of the Greeks and would invade from the north.

In 72 BC, Judah died and his following had shrunk to a mere handful.

The sect again had to re-assess his teachings and began to speak of him as being in Heaven where he would judge the angels.

He would return at the end time.

The Roman Invasion and the Renewal of the Cult

Judah's sect might have died out except for the Roman invasion in 63 BC.

The Romans did bring an end to Jewish independence.

Pompey, using Greek troops, invaded from the north and while not exactly as Judah had predicted it was close enough.

The sect flourished from 45 to 35 BC. Most of the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts date from this period.

And then, in 34 BC, the year predicted by Judah for his return, nothing!

The sect seems to have died out completely after that.

Wise points out that while there were at least seven "messiahs" after Judah (not counting John the Baptist or Jesus), there is no record of any before him.

Judah was therefore a sort of prototype of what was expected when Jesus appeared.

Return to "Origins of Christianity"

(c) 2004 Thomas F. Swezey All rights reserved.